Committees  |   April 2017
Earthquakes and Epidemics Are Not My Job, Right? Ethical Responsibilities of the Physician Anesthesiologist
Author Affiliations
  • David G. Mann, M.D., M.A.
    Committee on Ethics
  • Joseph F. Kras, M.D., D.D.S., M.A.
    Committee on Ethics
Article Information
Ethics / Medicolegal Issues / Committees
Committees   |   April 2017
Earthquakes and Epidemics Are Not My Job, Right? Ethical Responsibilities of the Physician Anesthesiologist
ASA Monitor 04 2017, Vol.81, 50-51.
ASA Monitor 04 2017, Vol.81, 50-51.
There have been more than 1,400 declared federal disasters in the United States alone within the last 10 years.1  “Disaster” lacks a specific definition; however, in the medical and health care contexts, it is characterized by an acute increase in demand for medical services far above normal levels, frequently associated with a decreased ability to provide these medical services. In most cases, the decreased ability to provide these services results from a lack of personnel, supplies, suitable facilities or a combination of these factors.
The 1847 Code of Ethics of the American Medical Association (AMA) was the first national code of ethics for any profession. It instructed physicians that “… when pestilence prevails, it is their duty to face the danger, and to continue their labors for the alleviation of the suffering, even at the jeopardy of their own lives.”2  The current AMA code states this obligation thusly: “Because of their commitment to care for the sick and injured, individual physicians have an obligation to provide urgent medical care during disasters. This ethical obligation holds even in the face of greater than usual risks to their own safety, health or life. The physician workforce, however, is not an unlimited resource; therefore, when participating in disaster responses, physicians should balance immediate benefits to individual patients with ability to care for patients in the future.”3 
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